Ryan Rhodes was notably one of British boxing’s best talents in the late 1990s with a career at top level that eventually touched three decades. A class act in and out of the ring, Rhodes was a product of Brendan Ingle’s legendary stable that featured the likes of Junior Witter, Herol Graham, Johnny Nelson and the incomparable Prince Naseem Hamed.
The Sheffield 154-pounder rose to prominence in 1996 and 1997 as he became the youngest man to earn the Lord Lonsdale Belt ‘for keeps’ as he won and defended the heralded British title twice within 90 days [in those times, two successful defences meant a champion won the Lonsdale Belt outright].
As the Sheffield starlet ascended the world ratings, he was a notable presence on cards that were topped by rising superstar Hamed. Rhodes discussed his early days as a professional and the famous Ingle Gym in the 1990s.
“The Ingle Gym was such a special place in that period. The banter was brilliant, we would be on each other’s case every day and it was so much fun. We pushed each other on by doing that and it got results. It was a team effort and they were some of the best days of my life,” Rhodes told Boxing Social.
“Nobody was bigger than the gym, that’s what Brendan Ingle would always tell us. It kept us all grounded and it created that bond within us that is still very much present all over Yorkshire to this day. Away from London, Yorkshire produces talent upon talent on a regular basis and I believe a lot of that ethos comes from Brendan Ingle’s methodology.
“Fighting on those big shows in Sheffield and Manchester was what we all lived for back then professional-wise. We all supported each other. When one of the lads from the gym was boxing even on a small hall show, we would all turn up to support.”
Over 13 years after challenging for his first world title against Otis Grant, the classy switch-hitter ran into a fighter in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, who would ultimately become a future superstar in Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
The Wincobank gym veteran recalled his WBC world title challenge against the Mexican boxing icon in June 2011. “It was a great experience, the Canelo Alvarez fight. He is a different animal now, but even back then you could tell he was special. His movement and his defence were very good even back then, he was superb,” said Rhodes.
“We were treated like celebrities when we were over there. I would be out running and people would stop me and ask me for a picture. They recognised me from all the posters in Mexico at the time, it was wild.
“The fight took place in one of the richest men in the world’s back gardens. I’m not joking, that’s where the fight was. He had an arena at the back of his house. It was surreal. The people in Mexico had been so respectful in the lead-up to the fight but when we went out of the curtain on fight night just to look at the ring we were greeted by a loud chorus of boos! Overall though, it was an amazing experience.”
A 17-year pro career drew to a close in June 2012 against Sergey Rabchenko where the Sheffield man was bested by the highly thought of Belarusian in seven rounds. Rhodes (46-6, 31 KOs) reflected on his final outing and life after boxing.
“I worked with Dave Coldwell for [the last] eight years and we had some great success. Dave is a fantastic trainer and I am grateful for those years. The last camp for Rabchenko I just wasn’t doing the things that I had always done in camp. It wasn’t there anymore and I found that out on fight night unfortunately,” recalled Rhodes.
“It wasn’t easy to close the door on boxing, it was all I had done since I was six years old. I think there needs to be more support for boxers after the finish their career. I was lucky I was mentally very strong but there are many that struggle and struggle financially. I agree there needs to be some form of structure similar to what Barry McGuigan tried years ago [with the PBA], but being funded by those making the money, not the fighters making £1,200 a fight.
“I run a gym in Sheffield these days and we have everybody in the gym. No matter what your goal or background is, everybody is welcome at the gym. I have pros in the gym and I do try and implement the theories of Brendan Ingle in the gym as a whole. From the atmosphere to boxing style. We all have our own interpretation of theories, and mine comes from my upbringing in boxing.
“I’ve been bringing names like Floyd Mayweather Jr. to Yorkshire and promoting with Stefy Bull so I’m keeping myself busy after boxing and I’m lucky to have a beautiful family that means the world to me, so life after boxing has been good. Now I’m focused on helping others through fitness and helping produce some of Yorkshire’s future stars.”
Main image: Press Association.